FESTIVALS OF ASSAM
Assam, is the gateway to the eastern lands of the Himalayas. A land of lore and legends, Assam feels like an another world, shaped by the forces of the mighty Brahmaputra River. A perfect combination of heritage and multifaceted races, Assam is the home to some of the most colorful, enthusiastic, compelling and enchanting festivals, exhibiting the true spirit, lifestyle and the rich culture of the people of Assam.
Bihu is one of the most important festivals of Assam and is celebrated with fun and abundance by all Assamese people. The Assamese people celebrate this festival irrespective of caste, creed, religion, faith and belief. “Bihu” word originated from the language of the Dimasa people. The supreme god of these people is Brai Shibrai or Father Shibrai and the season’s first crop is offered to Brai Shibrai. People pray for peace and prosperity while offering their first crop. Bi means "to ask" and Shu means "peace and prosperity" in the world. Celebrations begin in the middle of April and are celebrated for a month. Assamese society is predominantly agricultural and like most other Indian festivals, Bihu is associated with farming.
This major festival is celebrated in three forms; Rongali Bihu/Bohag Bihu (in April); Magh Bihu/Bhogali Bihu (in January); Kati Bihu/Kongali Bihu (in October/ November). Spring-Festival or Rongali Bihu is the most colorful festival and is celebrated in mid- April. This festival is celebrated to earmark the beginning of an agricultural season. The people of Assam enjoy these festivals with traditional dancing and singing. Bhogali Bihu or Maagh Bihu (the harvesting festival) is celebrated in mid- January by organizing a community feast and is celebrated at the end of the harvest season marked with bonfires feasting, buffalo fights, and pot breaking. During the night, traditional food is prepared and there is community feasting everywhere combined with the exchange of sweets and greetings. Kongali Bihu or Kaati Bihu or is celebrated on the completion of paddy transplanting. Cattle are fed with specially made rice items called Pitha. This occasion is a relatively solemn occasion and involves lighting of lamps to guide souls to heaven. The traditional Bihu dance and songs are performed during this festival. The Assamese people wear their traditional costumes with traditional jewelry. The Assam Tourism Department also organizes a special Rongali Utsav at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati which attracts lots of tourists and visitors.
Ambubachi Mela or Ambubasi festival is held annually during monsoon in the Kamakhya Devi Temple at Guwahati, Assam. The Ambubachi festival also known as Kamkhya Devi Puja is closely related to the Tantric cult. Ambubachi Mela is also known as Ameti or Tantric fertility festival and is a four-day fair.
Goddess Kamakhya, as believed by the people goes through her menstrual cycle and thus the temple remains closed for three days. Devotees are not allowed to worship the deity during this period. There is no idol of the Devi and is worshipped in the form of a stone over which a natural spring flows.
Tantric Babas, who come from various places, can be seen during these four days and rest of the year, they remain in seclusion. Some Babas display their psychic powers like putting their heads in a pit and standing upright on it, standing on one leg for hours etc. The temple remains closed for three consecutive days. Devotees observe some sort of restriction during these days. The devotees neither cook nor perform Puja. They also do not read holy books neither do any kind of farming. After the three days are over, the devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed. These rituals are done to ensure that the devi retrieves her purity. The doors of the temple are reopened after the Puja and Prasad is distributed to the devotees. All the devotees are then allowed to enter the temple and worship devi Kamakhya.
Ras Lila in Majuli
The Majuli festival, full of rich art and culture is celebrated on the banks of the River in Majuli and attracts tourists from all over the world and the country. This festival is held in a region known as Garamur, which is at a distance of around 1.5 kms from Majuli. The beauty of the surrounding and the mesmerizing landscape lure tourists and visitors to visit the Majuli festival. The festival is held at the break of the winter season. The festival and celebrations continue for four days. Cultural performances combined with local inhabitant’s tradition are a specialty of this festival.
During these festivals all the Vaishnavs perform dance dramas. Some Vaishnavs play the music and some play various roles with masks. Men are the major performers of the drama. Women also participate in some dramas. Masks are one of the major features of the dance dramas and represent various mythological. Food festival is also organized during this time which offers mouth watering delicacies of traditional, tribal and native Assamese cuisine. Exhibitions are also part of this festival and display those articles that immensely reflect the rich tradition of the state. Sightseeing tours are conducted for tourists who visit this region during the festival period. Discussions and seminars are organized or various topics. Tourists also may catch glimpse of migratory birds who temporarily visit and nest during this season.
Dehing Patkai Festival
Tourism Department organizes another festival around the time of Maagh/Bhogali Bihu. Known as the Dehing Patkai Festival, this festival is named after the Dehing River and Patkai range in eastern Assam. This Festival is celebrated for a few days in the month of January at Lekhapani, in the Tinsukia district of Assam. This festival offers an invigorating blend of tribal fairs, tea heritage tours, golfing, adventure sports, hiking and wildlife. Tourists and visitors are allowed to participate in various sporting activities.
The Dehing Patkai Festival offers the tourists and visitors with a wide range of adventure sports on the dotted islands and the banks of the Brahmaputra River. Angling, kayaking and parasailing are some of the adventure sports that are conducted for the tourists. Trips to the green tea gardens and the Digboi oil field are also arranged for the visitors. Tourists are also taken on excursion and wildlife safari. Trip to Stilwell Road and its cemeteries is also organized to recall the history of Second World War. The main aim of the festival is to save the forest regions of the state and to protect the elephants from encroachment. The festival has also recently started creating awareness among the villagers in the state of Assam.